Coln D-Day veteran remembers D-Day horrors of battle

The Royal Naval Association’s Eddie Shipley, D-Day and Battle of the Atlantic veteran, recounted how he was on HMS Starling, one of the famous Captain Walker’s group of ships. Their job was to keep the U-boats away from the landing areas on D-Day, a job that haunts him still.

Eddie said:

“We were a bit further up the coast on D-day, around where the U-boat pens were. My action station was B1 Magazine. We were already at sea, but we didn’t know it was imminent. We were called to action stations and the Captain told us on the tannoy it was D-Day. I was 19 years old.”

These ships were using depth charges to hit the U-boats. Eddie remembers how those charges were so strong that they shook the rivets loose on their own ship, meaning that they were always fighting leaks.

“It was awful really, you had to confirm the hit on a U-boat by picking up the wreckage. There’d be bits of the boat and bits of people. We once fished something out that looked like soap, but then we realised it must have come out of someone’s body. It really was terrible, but we had to take it for evidence otherwise you couldn’t claim a kill.”

The aftermath of D-day was sometimes chaotic, with reliable information being hard to come by.

Eddie said:

“A few days later our bridge lookout said there were over a hundred bombers coming towards us and we were going to get a good hiding. There was a big black mass of bombers coming towards us so all guns were brought to bear skywards, and then they dropped the recognition signal and everybody breathed a sigh of relief.”

After D-Day Eddie went on to sail in the Arctic Convoys, earning his Arctic Star medal.

“During the Battle of the Atlantic we never really got undressed. You never knew when you were going to be called. Sometimes you were on look-out two hours on and two hours off and we were always cold.”

After the war Eddie sailed off to Africa, Hong Kong and Australia to pick up troops and bring them home. He admits to having some great times during those days, but says he was happy to go home eventually and marry his sweetheart.

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